A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

U.K.'s NRPB Calls for Precaution

Second Stewart Report

January 11, 2005

In its report, released today, the board of the NRPB reaffirmed its call for a “precautionary approach” to the use of mobile phones.

One of the key recommendations is that “particular attention be given to how best to minimize exposure of potentially vulnerable subgroups such as children.” In the NRPB press release, Sir William Stewart, the chair of the board, states that, “The fact is that the widespread use of mobile phones is a relatively recent phenomenon and it is possible that adverse health effects could emerge after years of prolonged use.”

The UK papers led with the risk to children. Get Off that Mobile, Expert Tells Children,” ran the headline in the Sunday Times, when it broke the story ahead of today’s official release. Yesterday, the Daily Telegraph followed with "Fresh Warning over Children and Mobiles," and today the BBC announced, "Child Warning over Mobile Phones." CNN went with the same thread: "Expert: Keep Children from Mobiles."

Here in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),which has long sought to pacify those worried about possible cell phone health effects, tried to spin the story out of existence. Howard Cyr, the agency's point man on the health effects of electromagnetic radiation at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, sent out an e-mail saying that the FDA “agrees with the NRPB on its basic conclusion that there is no hard evidence of adverse health effects on the general public (the NRPB did say that). But the FDA added: “With regards to the safety of children and use of cell phones by children, the scientific evidence does not show a danger to users of wireless communication devices including children” (that’s the FDA’s emphasis). Given all the bad press that the FDA has been attracting recently (think Vioxx), one might think that warnings put forward by its British counterpart might merit a more considered and less deceptive approach. Perhaps Cyr, who is semiretired, is unaware that Sir William Stewart is the former science advisor to Prime Minister John Major. Perhaps Cyr doesn’t care. He simply sees his job as making sure that the cell phone story sinks somewhere offshore in the Atlantic.

You can download the full NRPB report at no cost.
[Later: The NRPB/HPA has removed the report from easy access.]